Why Wolfgang Puck Didn't Expect This Restaurant To Make Money

Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck may have never graduated high school, but his culinary empire is worth $600 million dollars, reports CNBC. The Austria-born chef played a central role in popularizing California cuisine when he opened Spago in West Hollywood in 1982. Known for its pizzas and its open concept kitchen, the restaurant became an instant hit with the Hollywood crowd, serving upwards of 200 covers a night to its demanding celebrity clientele (via Hollywood Reporter). The magic didn't fade when Spago moved from its Sunset Strip location to Beverly Hills in 1997. Puck has fed Academy Award nominees and winners each year at the Governors Ball, the official post-Oscars bash.

Puck's pioneering spirit didn't end there. As Fast Company explains, the seven-time James Beard Award-winning chef is a tireless innovator, from being the first to experiment with Asian fusion cooking at his namesake restaurant Puck to engineering a pressure cooker/counter top oven hybrid with his housewares brand. 

While Puck is credited for his culinary firsts, the chef opened The Rogue Experience in 2017 as a sort of culinary lab running out of his test kitchen in L.A.'s Pacific Design Center. The intimate dining experience was conceived as a place where young chefs from his restaurants, both near and far-flung, could create experimental tasting menus for adventurous diners, according to Restaurant Hospitality. The celebrated chef surprisingly tells Food & Wine that he expected the venture to be a money loser. 

The restaurant Wolfgang Puck didn't expect to make money

While Puck is an innovator, he's not afraid to shut down a restaurant if it isn't making money, he tells Ktchnrebel. Puck shares that in 1990, he opened a brew pub and tavern inspired by a restaurant from his native Austria but the concept failed so he closed it down. However, he goes on to explain that if a restaurant isn't making a profit, but things like TV appearances and licensing deals are putting your balance sheet in the black, then it's okay to stay the course.

In the case of The Rogue Experience, Puck was content to let the place lose money since he conceived the 10-seat concept kitchen to serve as an incubator, he explains to Food & Wine. Purchasing items like a centrifuge and a distiller, the restaurant embraced the high tech, avant-garde cuisine of the trailblazing Alinea Group. (Puck even hired away one of their chefs, Dave Beran, to run the Rogue). Puck told the publication, "This project won't make us money. It's not for that. It's to stretch their imaginations. Everybody is like a songwriter or a painter. You're not going to tell them what to write or paint. I don't want to put boundaries on anything. I want them to be as creative and imaginative as possible."